SEATTLE – The Seattle Seahawks got almost everything they could have dreamed of on a Monday night that will be long remembered and savored in franchise annals.
They saw much-doubted quarterback Geno Smith play a game of poise and precision – nothing too fancy, but a textbook embodiment of the Pete Carroll formula. Smith did just enough to win it and, especially, nothing to lose it.
They got the sweet schadenfreude of watching Russell Wilson, who agitated his way out of Seattle because he didn’t feel the offense let him shine to the full extent, relegated to the bench with the game on the line. Furthermore, Wilson got battered all night by the Seahawks defense, and the Seattle offensive line that Wilson obliquely criticized kept Smith mostly clean.
They watched that aforementioned Seahawks defense, under new coordinator Clint Hurtt, elicit echoes of the vaunted Legion of Boom with a series of valiant goal-line stands that cemented the 17-16 victory at Lumen Field.
But here’s the biggest takeaway of all from a night in which Smith significantly had no take-aways: The Seahawks, written off by many as facing a hopeless season, might be a lot better and more competitive than people expected.
That’s not to say you should reserve Super Bowl tickets, or even pencil in a winning season. But it is to say that it’s a distinct possibility the Seahawks were underestimated in the wake of Wilson’s departure. They certainly were hammering home the “no respect” storyline in the raucous postgame locker room.
Carroll: “Nobody gave us a chance to win this football game.”
Safety Josh Jones: “Obviously, nobody believed in us coming into this except for the guys in the locker room. We’ve been working all camp, and we’ve been fighting all camp and it showed out there.”
Wide receiver Tyler Lockett: “The biggest thing, man, we’ve got nothing to lose. Everybody already counted us out. We’ve got everything to gain.”
Linebacker Jordyn Brooks: “We knew what we had, and we knew the guys that we have in this locker room and what we’re capable of. So it’s no surprise for us. I don’t know how the outside world is reacting to it. But we’re ready for anybody, anytime.”
Mind you, this was a glorious win that could easily have been an agonizing loss if first-year Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett, in his debut game as the man in charge, hadn’t made one of the most inexplicable decisions in a highly scrutinized game since, well, his counterpart Carroll in Super Bowl XLIX.
After the Broncos acquired Wilson at considerable cost in players and draft picks, paid him a quarter of a billion dollars, and then essentially handed the franchise over to him, Hackett decided he didn’t trust Wilson to execute a fourth-and-5 in the final minute – one of his trademarks. Instead, Hackett trotted out kicker Brandon McManus for a dubious, and doomed to fail, 64-yard field-goal attempt.
“It was kind of a relief,” Brooks said. “Everybody knows Russ is a special guy.”
“Russell is a dangerous person, especially in short yardage; he can make a lot of things happen,” added Seattle linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, a particular stalwart Monday. “When they took him out of the game and brought the field-goal unit out, I was like, ‘OK, maybe they don’t trust him in that situation.’ I’m grateful for the way it ended.”
The specter of an aggrieved Wilson is now someone else’s problem. For the Seahawks, their new challenge was expressed by Brooks: “Now we have to rinse and repeat.”
Is what the Seahawks accomplished Monday sustainable, or as Quandre Diggs anticipated, will it just be written off as a team rising up in an emotional game but ultimately perceived as a one-off?
“It’s just one of those things that we’ve got to keep proving it,” Diggs said. “We are serious, and we have an opportunity to do something special around here.”
In the giddiness of improbable victory, tempered a bit by a serious injury to safety Jamal Adams and an offense that bogged down in the second half, the Seahawks were dreaming of special things that seem more plausible.
On offense Smith showed, particularly in the first half when the Seahawks scored all their points, why he won the quarterback competition, and why he might hang on to it longer than some anticipated.
“(Smith) is the best he has ever been,” Carroll said. “He is ready. He is ready for this moment. The experience that he had … he was so poised and calm in this game. It was just fun playing with him. We were talking as the game is going on, and he is having fun and laughing and enjoying it. The moment came to him, and he was ready for it.”
On defense, the Seahawks showed the distinct outline of a unit that can be tough, physical and clutch.
“We gave up a lot of yards, but it’s the power of believing that you can stop somebody no matter how much there is left there,” Carroll said. “It’s so enriching as we go down the rest of the season here that we can do stuff like that because you believe. It just helps you believe.”
On a night that initially was all about Wilson but in the end was all about the Seahawks, that was the ultimate victory for Seattle: the growth of belief.
Now all they need to do is rinse and repeat.
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